February’s China Bestsellers: A Crime Drama Knockout

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Catapulted to the top of February’s list just weeks after its show’s premiere, ‘The Knockout’ smacks down ‘The Three-Body Problem.’

A still from ‘The Knockout’ (season 1, episode 1), the television series that premiered in mid-January in China. Its tie-in book from Qingdao Publishing House has entered the OpenBook fiction bestsellers list at No. 1 in February. Image: CCTV-8/iQIYI

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Higashino’s ‘Swans and Bats’ Enters the Chart at No. 21
In a change to the recent leadership of the key bestseller list in mainland China, the Beijing OpenBook fiction chart is being led by a crime-drama tie-in novel from a trio of authors.

‘Knockout’

The Knockout (Qingdao Publishing House)—by Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, and Bai Wenjun—has vaulted to the No. 1 spot on the fiction list from no previous ranking, effectively blindsiding consumers and the industry.

The trilogy that The Knockout has shoved down to Nos. 2, 3, and 4 is the mighty “Three-Body Problem” series by Liu Cixin, which, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, has been surging to the tops of the monthly lists on the strength of both an animated and a live-action television adaptation.

True to form for the Chinese readership, The Knockout is—you guessed it—being fueled by the dynamic popularity of a new television series, itself.  Xu Jizhou directs this CCTV-8 and iQIYI series, which premiered on January 14 this year. Xu has written the adaptation along with Junyi Zhu, and Jijun Xue produces with a cast featuring Xi Zhang, Songwen Zhang, Gang Wu, Jianyi Li, and Danping Shen.

A show poster from organized-crime hit series ‘The Knockout’

The show is about a 20-year struggle by a police officer against an organized crime mob operating in Jinghai, which borders Hebei province and Beijing.

The popularity of the show “has been soaring since its launch,” OpenBook’s Wendy Pan says, having watched it gain traction in social media during the spring festival earlier in the year.

The book, a film tie-in edition, has leapt onto the February chart in the first month of its eligibility, those sales fueled by what’s described as “bizarre plot twists” in the television series. Qingdao Publishing has also used interactive elements to bond viewers and readers to the content, and has produced live events on various platforms, featuring actors from the cast.

Oriental Selection—one of the influential book-friendly shows we hear a lot about—is among shows used to raise the property’s visibility.

No need to cry for Liu Cixin and his “Three Body Problem” success—his work occupied seven slots on the February chart.

Meanwhile, another very consistent favorite in the Chinese market, the Japanese author Keigo Higashino, is back with a new hit, Swans and Bats, which ran away with sales in Tokyo and now is doing the same in China, in a translation from Nan Hai Publishing Company.

‘Swans and Bats’

After The Knockout, in fact, Higashino’s Swans and Bats is the second of just three new titles to find slots on the country’s February fiction list, the third arriving by a much more common route than such propulsive popularity: The Seventh Day from New Star Press is a re-issue of Yu Hua’s 2013 book.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists for February 2023 of bestsellers in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country.

At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers, February 2023
January 2023 Ranking  February 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787573604309 2023-01 Knockout Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, Bai Wenjun Qingdao Publishing House
1 2 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
2 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 5 9787572608582 2022-10 Lychee in Chang’an Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 6 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
7 7 9787020139590 2019-06 The Last Quarter of the Moon Chi Zijian People’s Literature Publishing House
6 8 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
8 9 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
11 10 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 11 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
9 12 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 13 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu hua New Star Press Co.Ltd
14 14 9787229100605 2015-10 The Three-Body Problem (Collector’s Edition) Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
24 15 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
18 16 9787229100612 2015-10 The Dark Forest (Collector’s Edition) Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
21 17 9787229100629 2015-10 Death’s End (Collector’s Edition) Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
22 18 9787533969608 2022-09 Destiny Cai Chongda Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
16 19 9787530219218 2019-02 A Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
15 20 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
26 22 9787506344791 2008-12 Street Wizards Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
28 23 9787530217962 2018-05 Cries in the Drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 25 9787229124410 2017-09 The Three-Body Problem (Collection 3-Book Set) Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
29 26 9787530216033 2017-09 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (2017 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
17 27 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
30 28 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
27 29 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 30 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, February 2023
January 2023 Ranking February 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787515830292 2022-01 Chinese Communication Wisdom Sun Yuzhong China Industry and Commerce Joint Publishing Co. Ltd
2 2 9787549629916 2019-11 Sales is to Play with EQ Wang Xiaoyi, Guan Peng Wenhui Publishing House
4 3 9787559664464 2022-10 Wish You Love Yourself Too Fang Qi Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 4 9787547252949 2018-11 Leadership Zhang Tingting Jilin Literature & History Press
Not Ranked 5 9787530848890 2010-01 Understand the Ways of the World Day by Day Zhang Yan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
5 6 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi China Machine Press
Not Ranked 7 9787550243637 2015-08 The Art of War Sun Wu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 8 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
27 9 9787513349369 2022-09 From the Limit: Correspondence on Feminism Chizuko Ueno New Star Press Co.Ltd
7 10 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787520813624 2021-06 Parents’ Language Li Yun China Business Publishing House
9 12 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L. Hay China Astronautic Publishing House
10 13 9787561346259 2009-05 Yi Ching is Really to Understand Zeng Shiqiang Shaanxi Normal University Press
12 14 9787572608377 2022-09 It’s A Long Journey Lu Sihao Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787542247209 2018-01 DUZHE (Essence) (vol. 21) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787542247216 2018-01 DUZHE (Essence) (vol. 22) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787542247223 2018-04 DUZHE (Essence) (vol. 23) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787542247230 2018-04 DUZHE (Essence) (vol. 24) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
17 19 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
16 20 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787101156515 2022-04 The Art of War Chen Xi Zhonghua Book Company
28 22 9787540883690 2022-11 Accompany Children Through The Six Years Of Primary School Zhu Xiuting Sichuan Education Press
13 23 9787208171336 2021-08 In the Affair: Chinese Government and Economic Development Lan Xiaohuan Shanghai People’s Publishing House
15 24 9787553786353 2019-03 Make Baby Food with Me Yuan Bao Ma Ma Jiangsu Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 25 9787548086673 2023-01 The Secret of Family Education (2 Volumes) Wen Dao Qing Bei Jiangxi Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 26 9787807701613 2020-05 The Art of War & Thirty-Six Stratagems Sun Wu Kong Xuetang Book Co. Ltd.
Not Ranked 27 9787572201882 2020-08 The Value Zhang Lei Zhejiang Education Press Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 28 9787559662170 2022-09 Oysters in the Shell are the Hearts of Adults Nini Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 29 9787563940615 2014-10 Accompany Children Through The Six Years Of Primary School Chai Yibing Beijing University of Technology Press
Not Ranked 30 9787511375247 2018-08 Chat With Anyone Rong Zhi China Overseas Chinese Press

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, February 2023
January 2023 Ranking February 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787218146768 2022-09 Manga Elementary School Student Psychology Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
2 2 9787548047698 2016-11 Sun Tzu’s Art of War Sun Wu Jiangxi Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 3 9787550229044 2014-07 500 Brain Teasers That Smart Kids Love To Play Zhou Zhou Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
7 4 9787559621337 2019-04 Butt Detective: Detective and the Fraud Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 5 9787559608390 2018-01 Butt Detective: The Criminal Appears Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
9 6 9787550286214 2016-11 Butt Detective: The Missing Lunch Box Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 7 9787550286122 2016-11 Butt Detective: Disappeared Popular Dessert Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
11 8 9787550286085 2016-11 Butt Detective: Big Crisis of Small Director Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 9 9787550286238 2016-11 Butt Detective: Looking for the Rainbow Diamond Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 10 9787553524238 2022-11 Little Detective Find It (3 volumes) Olivier Tallec Shanghai Culture Publishing House
14 11 9787511052568 2020-08 Butt Detective: Snow Monster in Deep Mountain Troll Dolphin Press
Not Ranked 12 9787556096244 2019-11 Dreaming of Being a Wolf King (5 volumes) Shen Shixi Changjiang Children’s Press
5 13 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
19 14 9787566714350 2018-09 World Classic Fairy Tales (20 volumes) Cai Xiaobai Hunan University Press
18 15 9787566714398 2018-09 Chinese Classic Stories (20 volumes) Cai Xiaobai Hunan University Press
13 16 9787110103074 2022-02 Science Comics Loved by Pupils (4 volumes) Sunbook Popular Science Press
Not Ranked 17 9787530599679 2021-09 The Art of War in Comics (3 volumes) Sun Wu Tianjin People’s Fine Arts Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787559663702 2023-01 Nature Lessons For Kids: Visual Notes As Soon As You Learn Li Kelai, Li Ran, Lin Xiying Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 19 9787548047629 2016-11 Thirty-six stratagems Qiu Feng Jiangxi Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 20 9787201161587 2020-08 Coraline Neil Gaiman Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787201154701 2020-04 Fortunately the Milk Neil Gaiman Tianjin People’s Publishing House
15 22 9787559706522 2018-05 The Foolish and the Unhappy (With Chinese Pinyin) Ren Rongrong Zhejiang Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787121387975 2020-09 Destroy This Book in the Name of Science! Mike Barfield Publishing House of Electronics Industry
Not Ranked 24 9787201160597 2020-08 Odd and the Frost Giants Neil Gaiman Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 25 9787544288590 2018-06 Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (2018 Edition) Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 26 9787521726473 2020-12 A Dog Named Money Bodo Schafer CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 27 9787566716347 2019-05 Souvenirs Entomologiques (2nd Edition) (10 volumes) Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, Cai Xiaobai Hunan University Press
24 28 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787543464575 2007-06 My Mum Anthony Browne Hebei Education Press
29 30 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, February 2023
January 2023 Ranking February 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 2 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 3 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 4 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 5 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
3 6 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
7 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
8 8 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
12 9 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
11 10 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
13 11 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 12 9787513348362 2022-08 Look Back Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
19 13 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 14 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
6 15 9787544774635 2019-01 How the Steel Was Tempered (New Edition) Nikolai Alexeevich Ostrovsky Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Yilin Press
Not Ranked 16 9787521200836 2018-08 Thiaoouba Prophecy Michael Desmarquet Australia The Writer’s Publishing House
20 17 9787544269452 2021-11 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 18 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787513350976 2023-01 Suzume no Tojimari Makoto Shinkai Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
Not Ranked 20 9787532761760 2013-08 The Outsider Albert Camus France Shanghai Translation Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, February 2023
January 2023 Ranking February 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi Japan China Machine Press
3 2 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 3 9787513349369 2022-09 From the Limit: Correspondence on Feminism Chizuko Ueno Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
2 4 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
4 5 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L. Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
5 6 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 7 9787521741124 2022-04 The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness Eric Jorgenson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 8 9787508090191 2016-12 Apology Plato Ancient Greece Huaxia Publishing House
9 9 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young Korea CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
15 10 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 11 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
8 12 9787521736816 2022-01 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
11 13 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
Not Ranked 14 9787557699529 2022-04 The Best Vegetable Soup Hiroshi Maeda, Yasuko Furusawa Japan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
18 15 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
17 16 9787521719253 2020-08 The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) Philippa Perry Britain CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 17 9787542645715 2015-02 Misogyny Chizuko Ueno Japan Shanghai Joint Publishing Company
12 18 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
Not Ranked 19 9787505738966 2017-05 How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America China Friendship Publishing Company
Not Ranked 20 9787515902241 2012-07 Letters to Louise: The Answers are Within You Louise L.Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House

Notes on the Charts

OpenBook is a privately owned industry-data research firm based in Beijing. It functions somewhat as Nielsen and NDP do from the West, and Nielsen Book Research International has worked with OpenBook in Asian operations. With authoritative data and information resources, OpenBook is able to deliver consulting service to partners who would like to explore the Chinese book market and identify suitable partners.

Jiang Boyan LLC advises authors and right’s holders on global intellectual property and investment opportunities.

As of December 1, 2020, OpenBook monitored more than 10,000 online and offline bookstores.

The online channel includes digital retailers such as large self-operated online stores, platform stores, and small- and medium-sized stores. The offline channels include 4,495 bookstores. Coverage includes most of the state-owned and influential privately owned bookstores in 30 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet are not included in OpenBook’s system.

In 2019, OpenBook tracked around 71.72 billion RMB in sales (US$10.1 billion).

Retail outlets include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
  • Airport stores

In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of three main types:

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • The “JingDong” Stores of JD.com (similar to Tmall as a marketplace of both individual companies and bookstores operated by JD.com)
  • Ten independent online bookselling retailers

China has 500 or more publishers in operation today. Most of them, Jiang Boyan CEO James Bryant clarifies, are government-owned. Private publishers are required to generate ISBNs for their titles from a publishing company that is government-owned—which, in other words, creates a system in which all ISBNs are in one way or another registered through government channels. The government approves each book published in China.


More China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are here, and more on the Chinese book publishing market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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